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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory » Research » Research Project #435422

Research Project: Plant Scale Characterization using Unmanned Aerial Systems Point Cloud and Reflectance Maps for Modeling Vine and Soil/Cover Crop Water Use

Location: Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-13610-029-48-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 30, 2018
End Date: Jul 1, 2019

The overall goal is aimed at significantly advancing high resolution products analyses for accurate and efficient plant-scale characterization using UAV technology and products for their use by growers, farm managers, and agronomic consultants with a special emphasis on providing very fine resolution information required by VRDI technologies. The approach includes intensive statistical and image processing and ground validation methods to attain the following objectives: Objective 1: Integrate recent advances in photogrammetry, remote sensing and point cloud processing methods for separation and characterization at plant-scale of reflectance and temperature maps, crop biomass volume and canopy temperature, leaf area index, and interrow soil/vegetation conditions. Objective 2: Enable new, accurate, automated estimation of plant-scale water use for specialty crops along with integration to VRDI technology using plant-scale products obtained in Objective 1.

ARS has developed an initial methodology to process UAV point cloud for biomass calculation, leaf area index, and interrow characterization. Also, ARS has initially validated the plant-scale products using ground truth observations. This data processing technology has been developed from a sensor-agnostic perspective, allowing its use by commercially available UAV platforms and sensors, with minimal requirements. Finally, we have established a formal cooperative agreement with E&J Gallo Wineries, the largest grape producer in CA to incorporate, validate, and provide feedback on the technique for use by its GIS Farm Management Team and to eventually expand its use to other vineyard and orchard producers. Additionally, the techniques will be tested and refined over traditional drip irrigation and intensive VRDI sites owned by E&J Gallo. The technology will be ready for demonstration and evaluation over multiple commercial fields during the 2019 growing season.